Advice for the 21st Century Writer: Jaded and bitter is out. Wide eyed and grateful is in.

I found an e-mail in my inbox this morning with a moving story from a reader who at the end of the e-mail had one simple question. A simple question which has evoked a lot of thought from me today.

Michigan Wood Anemone, ephermeral layer

Michigan Wood Anemone, ephemeral layer

I’m going to, or at least I’m going to try and answer the question here because I think it’s good to remind myself and whoever else, why we work so hard at whatever it is we are working so hard at.

I think for me, the reason I work hard and dream big is ultimately to gain more happiness and fulfillment in my life.

So Wendy asks:

“I was wondering what advice you would give a very green writer to release her inner stories. Thanks.”

Dear Wendy,

Thanks for asking this question.

Writing to me is something like breathing. I can’t imagine my life without writing. I write everything so I understand the need to write.

So my first advice is not to just be a writer on the inside. Writing is something that writers do. Everyday. The life of the writer is physically writing.

Two Morning Doves

Two Morning Doves

My practical advice to start writing is to take a creative writing class or join a local poetry society that workshops and reviews member’s poetry.

Furthermore, writing is a form of storytelling which has its roots in community, and just like any other art form, people come together to appreciate it.

Push yourself to write by making yourself accountable to a group of people. That is the sure fire way to get work done, even when you’re not inspired to.

Remember: Inspiration is everywhere, but motivation is cultivated.

A leaf is preserved in the ice.

A leaf is preserved in the ice.

Every artist hears his or her own call from the Muse. Sometimes the message lacks focus, but don’t get frustrated, don’t give up. Eventually you will develop what I like to call “forest eyes.”

Forest eyes are a person’s ability to see things in nature that are intending to hide.

When I was living in upstate Michigan I would go to the woods almost every day as there were several well maintained nature paths all around my house. When I first started going to those woods I was a stranger to them. After several months had passed, and I’d lived through my first full change of seasons with those woods, I started to get to know them.

Great horned owl babies

Great horned owl babies

For instance, I began the painstaking task to learn the names of the plant species in the woods. Suddenly at each new berry or fern or ephemeral flower I memorized in all its stages, I would notice patches of them where before I had never noticed them or I would notice an Indian pipe among a patch of wintergreen, it’s nearly translucent flesh, alien against the forest floor. How could I not have noticed this ever before?

Monotropa uniflora

Monotropa uniflora

One day I happened across a little army of baby raccoons, who lined themselves across the path and hissed at me as I talked baby talk to them.

It wasn’t long before I was identifying the different kinds of woodpecker by sound alone or could smell the patch of white pine before I could see them.

Male, Pileated Woodpecker by George W Bowles Sr

Male, Pileated Woodpecker by George W Bowles Sr

I had developed my forest eyes.

The same goes for writing.

Indeed, the same goes for anything new that we try. Unless you’re just naturally gifted of course, we all have to work at anything new we want to do, but eventually, if we stick with it, we’ll get back everything we put into it.

This means putting in the hard work. If you don’t put in hard work, you’ll never get anything out of life.

Meeting the Prince of the Royal Woods

Meeting the Prince of the Royal Woods

The best part about putting in the hard work to learn something new is that if we want we can even allow ourselves to be surprised and delighted by the events that come to pass. I would think that might even be the main reason to try our hand at something new, to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone is to find we are able to still be surprised and delighted.

Jaded and bitter is out. Wide eyed and grateful is in.

As you put your nose to the grindstone and begin the hard work, remember to notice as more of the forest reveals itself to you and be happy.


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  1. #1 by Ms. Smart on February 27, 2010 - 3:24 am

    nice response La2

    I would add trust your self.
    Trust yourself to tell the tale, to flow with words.

    Go experience life and describe it.

    Love the baby owls and the prince of royal woods, ouu

    • #2 by La La on February 27, 2010 - 3:30 am

      I think you’re right to add that, Ms. Smart!

      If you click those pictures it takes you to the host Web site. That prince of the royal woods is huge and on a black background, which is very impressive to say the least. 🙂

  2. #3 by Rachel Olivier on March 7, 2010 - 6:50 am


    • #4 by La La on March 7, 2010 - 1:54 pm

      writing is alchemy based firmly in science

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